Alliance Releases Wood-to-Energy Policy Roadmap

Posted: July 30, 2011

Source: 25x’25 Alliance

Wood Energy Biomass http://www.25×’25 today released a Wood-to-Energy Policy Roadmap concluding that the focused use of woody biomass to help meet America’s energy needs could increase the nation’s forest land base and improve the environmental services that landprovides.

The findings are among the principal conclusions developed by a diverse panel of leading forestry, conservation, scientific and energy experts following two years of stakeholder discussion facilitated by 25x’25. The Roadmap offers a series of recommendations for policy makers and stakeholders to enhance the role of our nation’s forestlands in meeting U.S. energy needs while sustaining “forests as forests.”

The Roadmap shows the means by which woody biomass can be an important feed-stock for renewable energy, including:

  • Promoting the sustainable use of biomass with appropriate feedback mechanisms
  • Rewarding efficient uses for woody biomass in energy production
  • Using market incentives to help private and public forestlands reach their productive potential for wood and other public benefits
  • Investment in needed research and technology development

The Roadmap offers a strategy to increase the role of forestlands in the development of bioenergy in a way that will also boost rural community economic development, lower the carbon footprint of America’s energy supply; restore the health and vitality of many of the nation’s public lands; insure the future of America’s private timberland, and provide the raw materials needed by America’s forest products industry, all while supplying a growing bio- economy.

“Our forests and the woody biomass they produce can be sustainable for energy and traditional forest products, as well as myriad other public uses and benefits,” said Bill Carlson, chairman of the Wood-to-Energy Work Group brought together by 25x’25. “The use of wood for energy, far from decimating our nation’s public and private forestlands, should be considered an opportunity to enhance and expand both the extent and productive capacity of those forestlands.”

“The use of wood for energy is currently a point of much discussion and debate,” Carlson acknowledged. “The Roadmap is the result of a collaborative effort to advance the national discussion. It sets a course to achieve the proper use of our forest resources for bioenergy while protecting and enhancing our private and public forests, and providing a continuous supply of raw material for our domestic forest products industry.”

The Roadmap says U.S. energy policy, including the Renewable Fuels Standard, and national security concerns demand that the nation create a path towards the sustainable domestic production of our own energy. “The nation’s forests need to be viewed as a strategic national resource, just as important as coal, oil, and natural gas, in helping to meet the nation’s need for heat, electric power, transportation fuel, and bio-based products.”

The Roadmap advises policy makers that “given sufficient time, proper incentives, when coupled with realistic mandates, will send market signals to private landowners and public land managers that increasing supply is an investment that will be rewarded. And they will respond accordingly.”

Jimmie Powell, the energy team lead for The Nature Conservancy, said the Roadmap also acknowledges that sustainability must be an overarching principle if wood is to be a key driver in expanding the supply of bioenergy. “This document shows that a focus on sustainable use of wood to energy, which encourages appropriate scale and efficiency, can enhance the myriad of environmental services forests provide to the nation including, improved biodiversity, wildlife habitat, soil retention, water quality and quantity, carbon storage and recreation.”

A key recommendation from the Roadmap is a call to eliminate the conflict that exists among a variety of definitions for “biomass” found in recent policy and legislative measures. Calling for a simple scientific biomass definition, the Roadmap states, “We should, as a nation, assure ourselves that our resource use is sustainable, that we are fully accounting scientifically for the carbon footprint of wood energy, and thus allow for a simplified definition of what wood qualifies to be counted in various programs.”

Going forward, the 25x’25 partners will share the National Wood-to-Energy Roadmap with policy makers and stakeholders to encourage the use of wood in concert with other biomass feedstocks for energy and traditional uses, to help ensure America’s forests, soils, water, and wildlife resources are sufficient and sustainable for the future.